A ROW over pensions will see hundreds of university staff take part in four weeks worth of strikes from February 22.

It is thought 361 lecturers from the University of Reading voted in favour of industrial action after concerns were raised over changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Staff will lose around £10,000 from their pensions every year after retirement, with staff at the lower-end of the university pay scale being hit the hardest.

A ballot organised by University College Union (UCU) saw more than 86 per cent of staff at the University of Reading vote in favour of striking.

Matt Rodda, MP for Reading East, met with Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the UCU, to discuss the impact of the strikes locally.

He said: “I appreciate these concerns and this change to UCU members' pensions is certainly not something to be taken lightly.

"Universities are wealthy organisations with substantial assets and liquidity, so it is fair to expect them to pay their share of staff pensions.

"These defined pension schemes are private pensions, which do not require public funding, and as such staff are well within their rights to ask for a fair deal after retirement."

The new pension scheme will scrap guaranteed pension benefits in favour of a defined contribution scheme, which will leave retirement income down to the returns made from investment in the stock market.

Mr Rodda added: “I have been involved in a number of campaigns to protect pensions. I have also been involved in a fight to preserve public services such as bus services, health, and social care for elderly people.

"I am worried about the erosion of a social contract for older people that has existed in this country for many years, both in terms of freezes or cuts to pensions and in terms of the kinds of services the government provides them.

“This strike action comes amid pressures to the higher education sector as a whole. There are pressures on staff to increase research and teaching output and this comes alongside pressures on students, including spiralling tuition fees.”